Monday, 27 February 2012

A Short History of My Language Learning



Brad's Challenge

My earliest attempts at learning a foreign language came in primary school. My mother (someone more linguistically challenged than me) taught me how to count to ten in French in preperation for going to 'the big school'.

From these modest first steps, I would like to say that I've come on in leaps and bounds but that would be somewhat of an exaggeration. My A-level French teacher's greatest complement to me, was that I had a good accent. In secondary school I got an A in French GCSE and a C in German. I have fond memories of Madame Roberts bringing in Camembert and Brie to class acompanied by a French baguette. In those days a French Baguette was the height of chic.

I've always wanted to be one of those people who pick up languages easily. I can safely say without a doubt that I'm not. It took me three years to get to the point where I could converse in Spanish whilst living in the country and I've been with my German partner for thirteen years, that's right, thirteen years and I'm in a B1 class this year. You get the picture right, not exactly linguistically gifted. It's strange really, as from the age of 10 I wanted to travel the world. My first holiday abroad was when I was 10. My family and I went to Tenerife. I was amazed. The entertainers in the hotel spoke three or four languages each. I decided then and there that I was going to dedicate my life to keeping people with little imagination amused on holiday.

I gave up French after a year of psychological warfare inflicted on me by my A-level French teacher. She was without doubt one of the meanest, cruelist teachers, I've ever had the pleasure of being in class with, and believe me there were a fair few to choose from. Like many of them she seemed to enjoy making my life hell. Well, that's what it felt like when I was 16 going on 17. She had a particular way of teaching a grammar point and then going round the checking comprehension. At the time it felt more like 'torture'. I gave up French. I became a 'wreck' in her classes I just couldn't take it and I just didn't get the grammar. It was indeed like they were speaking a foreign language to me. The subjunctive mood was something that my brain could not even begin to fathom at that age.

My language learning abruptly stopped at age sixteen and a half. I got back on the 'horse' ten years later. I took up Spanish whilst I was living in the Canaries. I got myself a private teacher and after a hard slog three years in fact, I was able to have a conversation on most subjects and express myself. I met my German partner soon after I moved to Spain and have been grappling with that language ever since. I had a year in Thailand where I managed to pick up the basics. I learnt a handful of lexical chunks, useful snippets like ' go slow, I don't like it fast'  which I used with the motorbike taxi guy on the way home from school something like (cha cha mai aou lek lek) and ' very spicy please' (pek mak mak) which was very useful in foreigner friendly restaurants where food was a bit mild.

I'm enrolled in a German course as we speak and things are not going so well. It seems that I'm destined to speak a couple of languages badly for the rest of my days. Who knows maybe I'll give French a go again.

Thanks Brad for the challenge!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Leahn

    All I'd like to say is this: Don't give up hope!!! What a shame you had such an awful sounding teacher for your French A level classes. Getting an A in your GCSE is no mean feat, so you obviously DO have a talent for languages, even though you won't admit it.

    Learning a language can involve a lot of hard work, and routine, boring stuff, I agree. The fact that you currently know 3 languages to get by in (French, German, Spanish), plus a basic idea of Thai = knowledge of 4 languages is pretty good going, by anybody's books!!

    Hope you and your furkids are doing fine:-)

    Warm wishes

    Janet

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